Hub Arkush’s 2021 Bears positional previews: Cornerbacks

Throughout the summer we will be running a 12-part series grading each Bears position group on a standard A-F scale, including pluses and minuses based on a bell curve comparing all 32 NFL teams.

The Bears are loaded with talent at cornerback, but there are no sure things on the depth chart.

Desmond Trufant (24th overall) and Artie Burns (25th) were first-round draft choices, and Jaylon Johnson (50th) and Teez Tabor (53rd) were second-round picks. But at this stage of their careers, only Trufant has played up to those levels over a period of time as a pro.

We can only assume good health when assigning these grades, but Johnson, Trufant and Burns all bring significant injury concerns as well.

That said, if these four all stay healthy and play to their ability, and any one or two of exciting youngsters like Kindle Vildor and Tre Roberson break through, this could prove to be an outstanding group.

Expect six cornerbacks on the 55-man roster.

JAYLON JOHNSON

Johnson is coming off an impressive rookie campaign and has all the tools to replace Kyle Fuller as the Bears’ top corner and possibly even land in a few Pro Bowls of his own.

At no time was the game or any moment too big for him last season. He has the short memory you need to play the position. He appears to have several more gears to find, and he could be special.

The concern is he had both shoulders operated on before he left college and then missed the last four games last season with a new shoulder injury. Grade: B

DESMOND TRUFANT

Trufant started 48 straight games his first three years in the league from 2013-15. He was one of the best cover corners in the NFC in 2015, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl.

But he was hurt at the halfway point of the 2016 season, missing out on the Falcons’ Super Bowl run. Trufant has started 16 games only once since. including only nine starts in 2019 in Atlanta and six last year for the Lions. If he’s on the field, he’s a high-end cover corner, but at 31 when the season starts, how healthy can he stay? And how much does he have left? Grade: B-

KINDLE VILDOR

Vildor was one of the fastest risers on draft boards after the Senior Bowl and NFL combine in 2019. He played well in spots last year after the Bears drafted him in the fifth round.

He was the talk of this year’s OTAs and minicamp and probably was the best corner on the field, but it was OTAs and minicamp. He has an extremely high ceiling, and the Bears project him as an eventual starter and a duo with Johnson for a number of years to come, but he still has to prove that on the field. Grade: B-

ARTIE BURNS

Burns played 48 straight games for the Steelers after being drafted in the first round. He started in nine of those as a rookie, all 16 as a sophomore and then six in Year 3. His fourth and final season in Pittsburgh, he started only once and was inactive the last six weeks of the season, as he just never quite played to his scouting reports.

He was the front-runner to start across from Fuller last year after signing with the Bears as a free agent, but tore his ACL early in training camp. Grade: C+

DUKE SHELLEY

Shelley was a surprise pick by the Bears at 205 in the sixth round out of Kansas State in 2019. He has impressed in flashes playing in the slot but also has had moments where he looked a bit lost. At 5-foot-8 and 183 pounds, he is limited to playing inside and will compete for the nickel job with Vildor. Grade: C

THOMAS GRAHAM Jr., TEEZ TABOR, TRE ROBERSON, MICHAEL JOSEPH, XAVIER CRAWFORD

It’s quite possible Tabor, Graham Jr. and Roberson all eventually are top three or four corners in the league if not starters. Each boasts some special traits. Tabor and Roberson have excellent size for the position, but we just haven’t seen enough of any of them yet. Grade: Incomplete


With good health and a consistent pass rush in front of them, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if this group were an A- or B+ by the end of the season. But right now, it’s all projection, and a number of questions still need to be answered. Overall grade: B-

Hub Arkush is a Shaw Media correspondent.


Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media